Skydeck Chicago dares visitors to be among the first to step onto The Ledge, a series of glass bays that extend from the building’s 103rd floor, when it opens to the public Thursday, July 2. Reaching out more than four feet from Skydeck Chicago’s west side, visitors have unobstructed views of Chicago – 1,353 feet straight down. In addition, guests will enjoy brand new interactive exhibit spaces that offer a “one stop Chicago” cultural experience on their way to the top.
“The Skydeck has evolved to challenge our visitors’ curiosity,” said Randy Stancik, general manager, Skydeck Chicago. “You only need to see the forehead prints on the windows to know that visitors are constantly trying to catch a glimpse below. The Skydeck attracts more than one million visitors annually who enjoy views of up to 50 miles and four states. Now, they have a fifth view right at their feet.”
The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), the building’s original designers, provided an innovative plan for this architectural and engineering achievement. SOM designed The Ledge so that the fully-enclosed glass boxes rest between conveyer belts. The boxes retract into the building, allowing easy access for cleaning and maintenance. Each box provides unobstructed views of people, taxis, boats, and bridges over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.
“The Sears Tower set architectural and engineering standards when it was first built, and now we are able to carefully craft new elements that expand the capabilities of the original design while retaining its integrity,” said Ross Wimer, design partner, SOM.
“The Sears Tower has always been about innovation. For this new Skydeck experience, we have kept with that tradition. Cantilevering out from the side of America’s tallest building, the viewing platform will allow visitors to see the incredible city of Chicago literally beneath their feet. This is a great addition to the Sears Tower and to Chicago,” added Bill Baker, structural engineer partner, SOM.
An unmatched view is not all that Skydeck Chicago offers. From the moment visitors arrive, they enjoy an entirely new queuing experience and interactive and educational museum-quality exhibits. The exhibits highlight the iconic landmark and celebrate Chicago’s sports, architecture, pop culture, history, food, music, and people. Interactive displays feature the city’s rich history, major Chicago attractions, and fun facts. And visitors can stand on video screens to see what Chicago staples would look like if they were standing on The Ledge, 103 floors above the pitching mound at Wrigley Field, Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate, North Avenue Beach, and more.
The multimedia elevator gives visitors one of the fastest rides in the world, up more than one hundred flights, while giving visitors points of reference for the heights they are ascending along their journey to the 103rd floor. Combined with The Ledge, the Skydeck Chicago experience will provide visitors from all over the world an encompassing view of the building and the city.
“Skydeck Chicago celebrates Chicago’s rich history and culture through architecture and educational programs that enhance the Chicago experience for all ages,” said Stancik. “In a single trip up to 103, visitors will see and learn about the best the Windy City has to offer.”
MTH Industries, the Chicago-based, 120-year-old glass and architectural metal contractor that installed Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, installed The Ledge’s glass panels. Each glass box is comprised of three layers of glass laminated into one seamless unit. The low-iron, clear glass is fully tempered and heat-soaked for durability. In addition, the motorized system that projects and retracts the boxes from the building utilizes steel LinearBeams.
Skydeck Chicago is open daily September through March from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, and from April through October from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. For more information, please visit www.theskydeck.com.